Heidi Axelsen, Hugo Moline, Adriano Pupilli
Builders mesh, galvanised scaffolding, LED message board, plywood.
Shelter Union exhibition
Millers Point and UNSW Galleries
A public billboard for the creation, collection and distribution of public 'unsolicited proposals' for Millers Point at Clyne Reserve. A public call out for cont
ributions from anyone with a better idea for Millers Point to submit their proposal for inclusion.
Side by side, the two most contentious developments in Sydney are proceeding apace. To the east, the social and affordable housing of Millers Point are being cleared for sale. To the west Barangaroo’s hollow headland park has risen to meet them, closely followed by the office towers and an ‘unsolicited’ casino. These two vastly different but intimately connected developments raise significant questions about development in our city: In whose interest is this happening? Who gets to say how our city is made/unmade?
The temporary barricades which are erected around construction sites across the city are a physical manifestation of the obscurity and exclusivity of city making in Sydney. Scaffolding, plywood hoardings, plastic scrim and signs declaring NO UNAUTHORISED ACCESS.
In reaction to this we made a space which supports UNAUTHORISED ACCESS to discuss and debate these developments. A space which invites people in rather than keeps them out. A space to ask questions and imagine other possibilities. A space to create ‘unsolicited proposals’ of our own.
Runway Journal, Issue 33: Power
In 2015, during the very public debates about the NSW State Government selling off state-owned social housing properties in Millers Point and the equally contentious support for the development of Barangaroo, Sydney-based collective The Lot created a temporary public installation to invite public feedback to these actions and proposals for alternatives. Unauthorised Access was situated in the heart of the working-class Sydney suburb. Overlooking the iconic terrace houses and Barangaroo development, the installation was a viewing tower positioned in the only piece of ‘public’ land in the area not owned by the State Government.
This work was part of an exhibition Shelter Union, which I curated at UNSW Galleries that articulated the pressing need for alternative living solutions in the face of ever growing economic, environmental, social and political pressures, and an imbalance in global equity. Although the work had a presence in the gallery, the public intervention was an opportunity to temporarily interject into the very space that was being contested by residents and government officials. The small parkland that housed the installation is zoned as part of the City of Sydney which enabled the project to infiltrate a highly political atmosphere.
This work did not necessarily suggest a physical alternative for living spaces, rather questioned the morals and ethics around the development of cities and who decides where and how we should live. In this instance, Barangaroo was being developed without public consultation and the residents of Millers Point were being forced to leave their homes and communities for economic reasons – being that the State Government planned to sell off the houses commercially to the highest bidder. Placing Unauthorised Access within the vicinity of these contentious spaces enabled the artists and other contributors to temporarily occupy the space being taken away from the people of Millers Point, and also Sydney.
The installation itself was made from common construction materials – scaffold, plastic scrim, plywood, and ‘caution’ signs, to blend in with the Barangaroo building site. Unlike regular construction sites, rather than keep people out, the viewing tower invited people in to inspect the surrounding area from a vantage point. The installation acted as a meeting point, where discussions with local residents and advocacy groups occurred. Informative flyers were dispersed detailing the social fallout of the financial decision to sell the land, in turn inviting the public to submit their own ideas for how the land could be used. Anonymous submissions were made with suggestions such as ‘stop the casino, give back Sirius, high street, windmill st [street] back to social and public housing’ and ‘how about a giant wrecking ball knocking tenants one way and Dalgety Terrace houses the other way, as they will surely pull them down once we are all cleared out.’ These proposals were displayed publically on a scrolling LED board for passers-by to see. Over six weeks, the installation stood amongst the Barangaroo construction site, resident’s protest signs and middle class couples inspecting properties to bid on. For a short time, this work created a junction for discussion and reflection on the politics of public space and regained ‘ownership’ of an area vastly out of the public’s control.
Unauthorised Access, 2015 Shelter Union, UNSW Galleries, installation at Millers Point.
Unauthorised Access, 2015 Shelter Union, UNSW Galleries. Photo by Silversalt Photography 2015
Unauthorised Access, 2015 Shelter Union, Millers Point.